Thursday 6 April 2017

Cross party support to make US radio 'pay to play'

A bipartisan group of legislators led by Representatives Jerry Nadler and Marsha Blackburn have reintroduced the Fair Play Fair Pay Act, a bill that would establish a public performance right for sound recordings on terrestrial radio, forcing stations to pay labels and artists for using their material, and correct the unusual position in the USA where there is no performance right for sound recordings on AM/FM stations (although there is for satellite and internet radio, and those royalties are collected by the collection society SoundExchange). 

If the bill passes, and is signed into law by President Trump, it would put webcasters like Pandora and iHeartRadio, which pay statutory royalties for their online radio platforms, on an equal footing with AM/FM radio, who would have to reimburse the owners of sound recordings for using their copyrights. 

Members of Congress say the bill will not be used to lower royalties that radio stations now pay to publishers and songwriters, which stations have always paid for the use of their songs. 

The legislators also say the bill will "make a clear statement that pre-1972 recordings have value and those who are profiting from them must pay appropriate royalties for their use," a reference to the ongoing web of litigation involving recordings made when copyright was still a matter of state law. As previously reported, sound recordings made after 1972 are covered under federal copyright law.

Representatives Nadler, Blackburn, Conyers, Issa, Deutch and Rooney issued  a joint statement saying: "Our current music licensing laws are antiquated and unfair, which is why we need a system that ensures all radio services play by the same rules and all artists are fairly compensated. Our laws should reward innovation, spur economic diversity and uphold the constitutional rights of creators. That is what the Fair Play Fair Pay Act sets out to accomplish: fixing a system that for too long has disadvantaged music creators and pitted technologies against each other by allowing certain services to get away with paying little or nothing to artists."

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), the radio industry's leading trade group, opposes the bill and president and CEO Gordon Smith said the bill "would impose a job-killing performance royalty on America's hometown radio stations,"  "NAB remains committed to working with Congress on balanced music licensing proposals that help grow the entire music ecosystem, promote innovation, and recognize the benefit of our free locally-focused platform to both artists and listeners."

A second bill has now been introduced: The new PROMOTE Act is based on the premise that as the radio stations argue that basically airplay is free promotion for the acts and the labels, artists should have the right to decline the promotion and ask that their records not be played. More on CMU Daily.


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